No, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Even if you were never an athlete before, you can train and compete against others your age and gender (from 50-90+).
I’m planning to do it — so join me! Here’s how to pick a sport, get the qualifying numbers, find a trainer, and…
- Improve your health through training
- Experience the joys of competition — and achieving a goal
What sport should you choose?
You have a huge choice — just go to NSGA.com and click on the “Sports” tab. Your choice should be one you enjoy and one at which you can excel.
Let me share my thinking on this. I’m unlikely in my small town to find good practice partners who are roughly at my level — so that eliminated sports like tennis, badminton, racquetball, pickle ball, volleyball, shuffleboard, and table tennis (all of which are offered at the Senior Games). You can’t get better at those sports without regular partners who push you.
Since I’m one of the slowest runners on the planet (always have been), that eliminated any short races. I’ve never had good stamina, and don’t have the willingness to suffer, so that eliminated distance races. Train hard — yes. Suffer — no. As for my jumping capabilities (high or long), the less said the better.
I tried to consider myself as objectively as possible. The one physical difference I appear to have compared to most other women is I seem to be a little bit stronger. That pointed me towards field events. I tried several of those events one Spring in high school, and I liked the shot put and discus. I would love to throw the javelin — it looks like a powerful dance! — but I am so uncoordinated when trying it that I know it’s a lost cause.
Find a sport with less competition
If you really want an opportunity to win… If the opportunity to achieve is high on your motivation list… Pick a sport where you will have fewer competitors. Some of us like training for itself. Unfortunately for me, I don’t. I need a chance to win something to keep me going through the long months of training.
This is another reason I really like the idea of the shot put. I know there were far fewer women competing in it when I was young than, say, running or swimming. I suspect the numbers are even lower as an older woman — when we are even less likely to feel powerful.
For example, in my 40s I got into karate competitions. Sparring, not katas. Most local tournaments broke women (and men) into 2 groups — with age 40 as the dividing line. In seven competitions where I participated, there were never more than six women competing in the 40+ category. (And usually only a couple more in the 40+ male category.) As a result, I have a nice collection of gold, silver and bronze medals from those days. Even better — I trained hard for three years straight.
How good do you have to be?
Go to NSGA.com then click on the “Sports” tab. Go to your sport to get the national qualifying times/distances/etc. to see how far away you are from qualifying. For example, the minimum qualifying distance for shot put for 70-74 year-old women is 6.4 meters (with a 3 kg. shot). That distance stays the same for 75-79 year-old women — but you get to use a 2 kg. shot. If I’m still at it at age 85, I’ll have to shot put 2 kg. just 3.97 meters to qualify.
How close are you? I measured out the distance on a field, and with no training at all was able to shot put within 10 feet of that distance. That made shot put sound possible for me. (As to discus, the spinning made me dizzy, so I had to scrap that idea!)
BTW, the older you are the more lenient the minimum qualifying standards are. For example, the 50 meter dash standards for women are:
- 9.24 seconds for 60-64 year-olds
- 14.89 seconds for 80-84 year-olds
- 23.83 seconds for 85-89 year-olds
Plan to start with your state’s Senior Games
It’s important to have easier goals to conquer first — to get positive reinforcement. Almost every state has its own Senior Olympics (sometimes called Senior Games) — where the standards to qualify are lower. Sometimes much lower. Sometimes non-existent.
If you win 1st through 4th place at your state’s Senior Olympics, you will qualify for the Nationals — even if your times/distances don’t meet the national qualifying times.
Google your state and Senior Games or Senior Olympics to find when and where the next event in your state will be held — and if they have qualifying times/distances to enter. My current (first) goal is to compete in Pennsylvania in 2019.
For example, at Pennsylvania’s Senior Olympics, I don’t see any specific qualifying standards.
Can you find a trainer?
I got a how-to book on the shot put, but recognized I would need more.
My recommendation is to try your local college or high school. Find out who coaches students in your event and contact them. Ask them for some startup training advice. Tell them you want to compete in the Senior Olympics.
I lucked out because the Co-Head Coach of men’s and women’s track & field at my university has a stellar record in coaching and participating in throwing events. In her youth, she finished 9th in the shot put at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She was kind enough to say yes to giving me some training advice. We’re going to meet in January and I can’t wait. I think it will be fun.
Want to join me?
What about you? Would having a specific time/distance goal in a sporting event be just the motivation you need to train regularly?
FYI — the national Senior Olympics are held every two years, in odd years (2019 will be in Albuquerque NM), while the state games are held every year or every two years. So you get more opportunities to enter and don’t have a long wait for the next games.
BTW, just think about being able to say… oh, so casually… that your plans for the summer include competing in the Senior Olympics(!)
Let me know what sport might interest you. Let’s motivate each other!
Note: The photos in this post are shots of actual participants in various Senior Olympics — from Shutterstock.
Marlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.